Living or Dyeing

When my young boys see grey hair it scares them. They point and stare and consign the poor old biddy to the grave, wondering what she must have done to deserve such a fate. So, naturally, when my seven year old first noticed one of my new grey hairs, fear struck him like a bolt, paralyzing him with doom. “Mom, your hair! Are you dying?” He drew the attention of his brother and dad to the top of my head where the course white hair grew like a curse. All three of them moved in close, mourning my youth when I swatted them away with my cane, I mean hand. What had I done to deserve such a fate? A grey hair and a brood of children (and a husband) who have never watched a woman age up close and personal. As a child, I watched my grandma twist her puff of grey hair into bobby pin curls every night and helped her scrape the calluses off of her heels so that she could shove them back into her pumps in the morning. I dipped my fingers into her Ponds cold cream as she smoothed it on her soft, rolling wrinkles and smelled deep its clean, oily fragrance. She wasn’t dying. She was more alive than my mother, who dyed her hair a crispy black and slathered baby oil on her face when she sat in the sun. Age would crack through her scalp every 3 weeks and frantically she hung her head in the bathtub with a bottle of dye to shove it back in. But how could I blame her? Surely she was the only 40 year old woman dyeing of age. Such a shame. To whither away in a tub full of dye. And maybe that’s why I look at the boxes of dye on the shelves of the store and think of my grandma who had so much more; a womanhood that isn’t dying but living. No frenzy. No panic. A woman who touches her hair and her face and doesn’t despise the moving of time. What a gift I was given.

So, I answer my son, “No, I’m not dyeing. Not ever.

 

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12 thoughts on “Living or Dyeing

  1. I got my first gray hair in my twenties. In my mid-forties, it’s really catching up to me. I’ve dyed a few times, but it’s a lot of work keeping up with it. No more. I’m getting to that wonderful age where I don’t give a damn what people think. BTW, my mom dyed her hair black for many years, too. When she finally stopped in her late forties, it came out a beautiful, silvery white. I’m hoping for that same classy shade. Your grandmother indeed gave you a wonderful gift.

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  2. This is amazing! I hope you’ll share this story with your boys (if you haven’t already). Such a beautiful illustration of being alive. I have 2 boys as well, and can just feel your boys’ worry and silliness in that moment. My grandma was also MUCH more alive than my mother. She had one patch of grey that hung like a steak above her right eye and we always saw it as an expression of her sass and rebelliousness. She also taught us how to whittle walking sticks and took us up mountain paths in the Alps where we would play ‘explorer’ with her. šŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing and for triggering great memories, too. šŸ™‚

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  3. I made up my mind years ago that I’d never dye my hair. A friend laughed and told me that I’d change my mind once the grey started creeping in. Some grey hairs have snuck in and I proudly display them. A wise man once called them a sign of wisdom. Why would I cover up my well earned wisdom? šŸ˜‰

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  4. Good for you! I too will be avoiding the dye aisle. My first few grey hairs showed up a little while ago but I’m surprisingly not that bothered by them at all. There are bigger things to worry about than the colour of my hair. Growing old gracefully sounds like a much better prospect than dousing myself in chemicals on a regular basis. Your boys will get used to it eventually and then will not remember anything different.

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    1. What’s interesting is that I guess I don’t mean to suggest that not dyeing our hair is better than dyeing it. Perhaps I should go back and work through this piece again. What I imagine here is the importance of having aging women in our lives and the lives of our children. Or, women who find comfort in their femaleness or womanhood as they get older instead of desperately grasping on to their youth.

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  5. In my family–or at least on my dad’s side–white hair is the envy of my paternal grandmother. ALL three of her sisters had/have white or grey hair. My grandmother has brown hair that has faded over time, but has never actually gone grey or white. She can’t stand it. They had, just like you, women in their family that aged gracefully, so now they want to BE those women–and while my grandmother IS one of those women, the joke or tease in the family is that she’s 80 and hasn’t gotten her “crowning glory” of white hair. But even in the joking, it shows that they value their aging. They tell stories, they laugh, dance, sing, play–live so well. And then when life ends, they mourn together–but beautifully so.

    I’m excited for it, because of these women who have taught me so much. I of course won’t rush it, but it excites me all the same.

    Thanks for posting and sharing this story, and thank you for being one of the many women I can admire.

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  6. Pingback: A Timeless |

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